Syrian soldiers, general defect to Turkey amid fighting


A group of some 20 Syrian soldiers including a general defected from the army Tuesday and fled to Turkey, a Turkish diplomat told AFP.

They joined hundreds of other ex-troops from Syria’s military.

“The soldiers who fled to Turkey include a general, three colonels and several other officers,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Some 40 people, including defectors and family members, crossed the border into the southern Turkish province of Hatay. They were taken to the Apaydin refugee camp, which holds all Syria’s defected soldiers, Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The generals, commanders of the Regional Air Force, have crossed the border and arrived in the town of Reylanli in southern Turkey, the Turkish diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The generals and dozens of lower-ranking officers and their families were taken to a separate camp where army defectors take refuge.

Since the start of the civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and rebel forces, dozens of senior army officers including some 40 generals have defected and headed to Turkey.

Turkish authorities have refused to give the exact number of Syrian defectors, who typically join the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army.

Turkey, which supports the insurgency, is housing a total of some 150,000 Syrian refugees at camps near the border.

A Turkish diplomat said last Friday that two Syrian air force generals have defected from Assad’s regime and joined opposition forces in Turkey. Meanwhile, three Syrian state journalists deserted Assad’s media arm.

Last month, the attorney-general of Syria’s northwestern province of Aleppo declared defection from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a video posted Wednesday by activists.

Judge Ahmed al-Nuaimi said he defected in protest at Assad regime’s “crimes” against the Syrian people and that he joined the opposition, the Free Syrian Judges Council.

Nuaimi’s defection comes after a high-ranking Syrian military official announced defection Tuesday, saying the army has turned into an agent of killing and destruction, Al Arabiya TV reported.